Subjects And Scenes
There’s a selection of five standard subject modes – for portraits, landscapes (which Panasonic prefers to call ‘scenery’), close-ups, sports action and night portraits – which are selected via the main mode dial, but these are just the entry points to much-expanded set of sub-modes. So, for example, in the portrait mode, the subsequent choice is for Normal, Soft Skin, Outdoor, Indoor and Creative. If the latter is selected than the ‘Peripheral Defocus’ becomes available too.
Beyond all this, the G2 also has a set of scene modes, namely Sunset, Party, Baby 1 and 2, Pets and Peripheral Defocus again. In the ‘Intelligent Auto’ (iA) mode, automatic scene detection comes into play and roves between seven possible options depending on the data it’s processing from the autofocusing, metering and white balance systems. These are portrait, scenery, macro, night portrait, night scenery, sunset and baby. The iA mode also delivers a whole lot of other ‘smarts’ designed to maximise the strike rate with point-and-shoot operation, including automatic backlight correction, higher ISO setting and face detection. The G2’s focal plane shutter has a speed range of 60-1/4000 second with a bulb timer for up to four minutes and flash sync up to 1/160 second. The built-in flash is supplemented by a hotshoe for which Panasonic offers a number of dedicated accessory flash units. The built-in flash has a metric guide number of 11 and coverage equivalent to a 14mm lens’s angle-of-view (i.e. a 28mm in 35mm format terms). The flash modes are auto, red-eye reduction, fill-in, and slow speed sync (the latter two can be combined with red-eye reduction) while first/second curtain sync and flash compensation up to +/-2.0 EV are available as separate adjustments. When the flash is used in the red-eye reduction mode, a red-eye correction function is activated to automatically detect and eliminate any remaining effect as the image data is processed post-capture.
As on the previous G-series models, dynamic range extension is via Panasonic’s ‘Intelligent Exposure’ processing – called iExposure for short. It employs a combination of underexposure and tone curve adjustment to retain as much detail as possible in the highlights without blocking up the shadows. The facility can be set to Off, Low, Standard or High and, in some instances, the ISO will be automatically raised to give the underexposure which may result in some increased noise, most notably in the shadow areas. Incidentally, iExposure processing also operates in the Motion Picture P mode.
The G2’s autofocusing system is substantially the same as that of the G1, but with the obvious improvements – primarily in tracking speed – that come with another two year’s of development. As before a curious little retro-looking dial on the top deck sets the operating and area modes so switching between the single-shot and continuous modes is done manually. The wide-area mode employs 23 focusing zones, but they can’t be manually selected individually. However, the single-area mode essentially offers the same degree of control as its zone be moved around a large area of the frame and also varied in size so it can be quite precisely tailored to a specific subject and/or situation.
The two other area modes are face detection (for up to 15 areas) and dynamic subject tracking which selects and changes the 23 zones automatically to keep a moving object in focus. As is offered on a number of Lumix compacts now, the face detection function has been expanded to include a recognition capability which can be set for up to six individuals. The face detection system will further prioritise the registered subjects. Low light/contrast assist is provided by a built-in illuminator and manual focusing by a magnified image section which can be set to either 5x or 10x enlargement. With touch control any part of the screen can be tapped and that section will be instantly enlarged, otherwise pressing and holding the ‘Q.Menu’ button brings up a focus area frame which is moved around via the navigational keys.
Panasonic has introduced a new standard zoom in the shape of the Vario G 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 ASPH which is mainly designed to be lighter so it has a polycarbonate mount instead of a stainless steel one. It incorporates Panasonic’s ‘Mega OIS’ optical image stabilisation system although, compact camera style, the modes are selected via the G2’s menu system and not on the lens itself. There are three modes for continuous compensation, compensation activated only when the shutter release is depressed and correction in only the vertical plane to allow for panning.
Pixels And Processing
The G2 has the same Live MOS type sensor as its predecessor, but it’s mated to a new Venus Engine HD II processor which is designed to deliver a number of performance improvements, particularly in terms of noise reduction. Consequently, the sensitivity range is extended by a stop to span ISO 100 to 6400. The processor also drives a new feature called ‘Intelligent Resolution’ which was first introduced on the TZ10 compact.
‘Intelligent Resolution’ detects outlines, textures and areas of soft gradations and then enhances the edges to increase the definition and, consequently, the perception of sharpness. It’s primarily designed to make the digital zooming function – which crops the sensor in order to fudge extra magnification – more useable than has been the case in the past, but it also has benefits with video recording (such as extracting higher res stills). However, as on the Lumix compacts with this feature, it only operates in the fully automatic shooting mode.
As before, the G2’s sensor reads out four channels of data simultaneously primarily in order to facilitate the 60 fps live view feed. The total pixel count is 13.06 megapixels of which 12.1
million are effective, giving a maximum image size of 4000x3000 pixels in the 4:3 aspect ratio. Images can also be captured in the 3:2, 16:9 and 1:1 aspect ratios, although these are all crops on the 4:3 sensor so there’s some loss of resolution. There’s a choice of three image sizes at each aspect ratio and two levels of JPEG compression; fine or standard. RAW+JPEG capture can be set to include either a large/fine or a large/standard JPEG file.
Sensor cleaning is performed via the Olympus- devised ‘Supersonic Wave Filter’ which is located just in front of the imager, and which vibrates at around 50 kHz to shed dust particles. Adhesive strips collect the dislodged offenders. Sensor cleaning is performed automatically when the camera is switched on, but it can also be manually activated via the G2’s custom menu. As the shutter is mostly open on an interchangeable lens compact camera the sensor is highly exposed, especially when the lens is removed and early experiences are that all the built-in sensor cleaning systems are being challenged. The advice here is to be even more careful with when and where lenses are changed than with a D-SLR.